After a tumultuous 2020, property’s leading figures share their hopes and expectations for 2021 as the year gets off to a rocky start with yet another lockdown.
Chief executive, CO-RE
A year ago I predicted more surprises, and we certainly got them. Markets reflect our emotions and we had the full range last year.
Cities and offices have been tested further than ever before and have come back fighting, and there is a deeper sense from investors, developers and occupiers that this pandemic will pass and the next generation of offices will be extraordinary. The pandemic has reinforced the importance of offices to the long term prosperity of companies and the work/life balance of their employees.
CEO, Heart of London Business Alliance
With the widespread distribution of the vaccine, my hope is that the government will offer a clear roadmap out of this crisis and visitors and office workers will return to the city. Above all, I hope that central London’s cultural sector is able to survive this crisis.
To do this, it will need immediate help and investment from the government to ensure that jobs are maintained and institutions kept afloat, and the sector will need further specific support measures when the government allows large-scale gatherings once more.
Our experience over the summer showed us that footfall will not return instantly even when restrictions are lifted and businesses will need continued support to play a role in helping drive London and the UK’s economic recovery. If businesses get the support they need, central London will flourish once again, with the West End’s unique mixture of businesses fulfilling London’s role as a global city.
I also hope we will be able to keep London competitive with a global tourism campaign, provide further business rates relief and longer-term reform, and re-examine the government’s position on tax free shopping. When London succeeds, so does the rest of the UK.
Co-founder and director, Guild Living
The combination of Covid-19 and poor care home environments had tragic impacts on our older generations during 2020. But I believe that in 2021, the government will begin to impose the legislative changes required for local authorities to ensure they are adequately planning to meet older people’ needs.
Even before Covid-19, change was on the horizon. Over the next five years, the number of private senior living rental properties is forecast to increase by 160% to more than 13,000 by 2024. Although these are positive steps, we must up the ante to keep up with the pace at which Britain’s older generation is growing, with the number of people aged 75 and over set to reach 1.8 million in the next decade.
The pandemic means more people approaching later life are assessing their future housing and potential care needs — a change in mindset that will accelerate retirement housing demand. This, coupled with a long-overdue shake-up of the planning system, means 2021 could herald a revolution in Britain’s attitude towards ageing and retirement living.
Managing director, Hillview Real Estate
Having achieved around 98% rent collection in 2020 in our regional office-focused portfolio, I remain a firm believer in the central role offices will continue to play as the beating heart of corporate life – even as other parts of corporate activity continue to evolve.
I am excited that we can play a role in shaping the ‘new normal’, as companies embrace those positive lessons learned from the WFH experience, resulting in increased productivity and flexibility for employees to have more control over where and how they do their work and how they contribute to the green initiative through new (and healthier) ways of commuting to more convenient office locations.
My optimism about occupational demand for offices is also based on the tremendous resilience I have seen from companies in traditional and high-growth sectors making the quantum leap enabled by Covid opportunities, including life sciences, med-tech, fintech, online delivery of goods and adaptive supply chains. I am optimistic 2021 will prove a pivotal year for the continuing investment of Hillview Partners Property Fund III.
National head of real estate, Irwin Mitchell
It will be interesting to see where any pent-up investment appetite will be directed by investors and funders. There will be lasting changes to many sectors, with an increased emphasis on digitisation, health and wellbeing.
The government’s planned review of commercial landlord and tenant legislation may help to reinvigorate our high streets.
The entire lifecycle of housing will remain a focus; the proposed permitted development right from Class E uses to residential could lead to a different town centre model, anchored by housing. As the Environment Bill heads back to debate and the Planning White Paper starts its journey, both could give us a very different regulatory system.
The adaptations of the past year will continue to make us more innovative and receptive to the use of technology, less afraid of disruption and more empathetic in our dealings with others.
Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope
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Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope (part 24)